Biography of John N. Pomeroy
Chittenden County, VT Biographies





POMEROY, JOHN N. John Norton Pomeroy was born in a log cabin on the north side of Pearl street, Burlington, just below the present residence of Henry Loomis, on the 29th day of September, 1792, and at the time of his death, on the 19th of July, 1881, was the oldest native inhabitant of the city. He was the youngest of three children of Dr. John Pomeroy, a sketch of whose life appears in the history of the Medical Profession, having one older brother, Cassius F. Pomeroy, and one sister, Rosamond P. His mother, Mary Porter, was born in Abbington, Mass. The childhood of Mr. Pomeroy was passed in attendance at the old district schools of his native place, and in August, 1805, he entered the University of Vermont, from which he was graduated four years later. Although then not quite seventeen years of age, he delivered at commencement a poem and an oration, both of which were remarkable for youthful productions; and from the time of his graduation to the day of his death he was an active friend of his alma mater, which he frequently aided by liberal donations. At college he evinced a wonderful aptitude for scientific study and research, becoming thoroughly conversant with the discoveries of all times; and this predilection for studies in this department of learning he never relinquished. He delivered the master's oration at the university in 1812. In the winter and spring of 1814 he attended two courses of lectures on chemistry in New York city, and in the following fall delivered a course of fourteen lectures on that subject to a class of medical students and a number of ladies and gentlemen residing in Burlington. His native independence of character, however, together with his enthusiastic and practical love of learning, impelled him to one of the learned professions as a means of earning his livelihood, and he chose the practice of law. He entered the office of Judge Daniel Farrand, with whom he remained during the greater part of his apprenticeship, but finished his course with Hon. Charles Adams. He was admitted to the bar of Chittenden county in 1816. He continued to practice successfully until the decease of his father in 1844, when, by the inheritance of an ample fortune, he was enabled to retire and devote his time exclusively to those learned and elevating pursuits of which he was so fond. His professional labors were chiefly those of a collecting lawyer, in which he was very successful; but among other important litigated cases he was prominent in defeating the claims of a number of men who had taken possession of portions of the city hall under leases from the town of Burlington, and thus vindicated the exclusive right and duty of the public to keep and use the same for the erection of public buildings and for a public park.

At the commencement exercises of the University of Vermont, in 1816, he delivered another oration, as did also his intimate friend, Henry Hitchcock. He was then but twenty four years of age. He was deeply interested in the question of the feasibility of crossing the ocean by steam, which was then in process of agitation, and in 1816 wrote to Cadwallader C. Colden, of New York city, for a position on his new steamship, which was then supposed to be about to make the attempt. The places were all engaged, however, and this enterprise soon after failed for want of funds.

Mr. Pomeroy's love for learning did not, however, unfit him for the practical duties of citizenship, or for the more weighty responsibilities of statesmanship. He was elected a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1836, which established the State Senate in the place of the old Council, and took an active part in bringing about this most desirable measure. He also aided in securing the coalition of the old anti Masonic party with the National Republicans, "the success of which," as he afterward said, has kept the State right side up ever since." In 1848 he was elected a member of the Council of Censors, and was made secretary of the board. In this position he advocated with great vehemence and well directed power a reform in the vicious method of representation, by which towns with their thousands of inhabitants have no more voice in the House of Representatives than towns whose population could be counted on the fingers. Upon this subject he made a report which the Council ordered published. He was chosen a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1849, and performed his full share of the labors of that body, particularly in his reiterated advocacy of a more nearly equal representation.

In 1850 he was appointed by the president a member of the board of examiners at West Point, to which place he repaired, and acted with his usual efficiency in that capacity. In the same year he was appointed by Governor Williams chairman of a committee, of which Lieutenant Governor Ranney and Hon. T. F. Redfield were the other members, to examine and report upon the finances of the State under a resolution of the Legislature. In this capacity he drew up a report in which he expressed the views of himself and his coadjutors in vigorous and well chosen language, which was not flattering to the Legislature; and for that reason, and because its independence was in favor of a worthy cause, it was deserving of the highest commendation.

These are, however, but a few of the many prominent offices which Mr. Pomeroy filled during his long and eminently useful life, it being one of the best of his characteristics that he never refused to perform a public service when called upon to act. From his earliest manhood to the time of his old age he made it a principle to attend all the town meetings and freemen's meetings held in his town, excepting in the rare cases of enforced absence. From the time of his admission as a freeman in 1814 to the year 1874 he was absent from only one freemen's meeting in Burlington, and during that long period of sixty years voted successively the Federal, National Republican, Whig and Republican tickets. During the anti slavery agitation he freely expressed his sympathy with the movement, and upon one occasion publicly and successfully protested against the attempt of some of his social and even political friends to prevent by force an antislavery lecturer from speaking. He was at various times made overseer of the poor, town treasurer, selectman, State's attorney, etc., and acted for many years as justice of the peace. He was a warm friend of Hon. George P. Marsh, and was with him alone associated on a committee of two for the erection of the statue of Ethan Allen. Mr. Marsh selected the marble and other material in Italy, while Mr. Pomeroy directed the modeling and erection of the statue.

He was trained in childhood to attend regularly divine worship, and continued the habit during his life, from both principle and pleasure. He was one of the original members of the Unitarian Church in Burlington, formed in 1816, and continued his intimate association with that organization to the time of his death. In his church as in all his affairs he was always ready to give generously, but in his own way, to aid any cause which commended itself to his better judgment. It is this wise and sensible discrimination which is the grandest charity, infusing energy and courage in all enterprises that are practicable as well as benevolent, and discouraging the birth and prosecution of visionary and Utopian schemes which must ever end in ridiculous failure.

Mr. Pomeroy was united in marriage, on the 25th of March, 1819, with Lucia, daughter of Horace Loomis, of Burlington. On the 25th of March, 1869, they celebrated, with a few family friends, the fiftieth anniversary of their wedding, and on the 12th of August immediately following commemorated the occasion by giving a large party. Mrs. Pomeroy died on December 31, 1878.

Such is the outline of a life of honor and fidelity! Mr. Pomeroy's personal characteristics shine forth from his deeds. He was independent, public spirited, scrupulously honest, an enlightened friend to justice, and a determined opponent to everything evil, an advocate of a higher and universal education, hospitable almost to a fault, affectionate in his family, sincere and devout in his religion, pure in his public as in his private life, and charitable. He was fond of the society of children, and in his intercourse with them seemed to be of their very age and temperament. He had a strong aversion for being in debt, and would never enter upon an agreement while there was a visible contingency of his being unable to perform it. His life was eminently useful, and no higher praise can be given to any life.

From:
History of Chittenden County, Vermont
Edited by: W. S. Rann
D. Mason & Co., Publishers
Syracuse, New York. 1886


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